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COOP 101


In the US and in Canada, 4 in 10 people participate in a coop. (Source: International Co-Operative Alliance). In the US, there are an estimated 30,000 co-operatives, owning more than US$3 trillion in assets. They generate over US$500 billion in revenue, employ more than 2 million individuals and pay US$25 billion in wages. (Source: National Co-operative Business Association)

What is a coop? A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. (Source: International Co-Operative Alliance). Stated more simply:

  • Coops are owned and controlled by members, not outsiders.
  • Coops are motivated not by profit, but by service to their members. Coops return surplus revenues to members in proportion to the member’s use of the coop.
  • Coops generally follow the following Seven Guiding Principles established by the International Co-Operative Alliance:
    • Voluntary and Open Membership – Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
    • Democratic Member Control – Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions.
    • Member Economic Participation – Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
    • Autonomy and Independence – Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
    • Education, Training and Information – Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
    • Cooperation among Cooperatives – Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
    • Concern for Community – While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

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